A Silver Lining in Fitness: A Miami Gym Owner’s Journey Through COVID-19


On March 18th Downtown Strength and Conditioning had to temporarily close its doors. Like many other fitness facilities, we quickly scrambled to figure out how we would approach this unprecedented time not just in the world but now in our gym and fitness community.

On the eve of our closure, our coaching staff met at the gym. I gathered our team of trainers and we brainstormed. We shared ideas on how we could keep our community fit, engaged, and positive through this pandemic. I knew the time to react would be of the essence, we had to have a plan for our members to keep them training with us; but how?

A few short hours later we had filmed several hours of content and launched a YouTube channel. Just like that, we had begun to navigate the world of online content without even realizing it. We shared our new channel with our members and I went to sleep, not sure what tomorrow would bring or the next day or the next. It was scary. When I woke up our channel had over 100 subscribers. Whoa, maybe this online thing could work.

In the coming days, I began to evaluate how we could reach our community moving forward. Would we be closed for weeks or months? We weren’t sure, so I looked at various platforms to deliver classes and content. It was at that moment that I realized we didn’t need to figure out how to “adapt” because we already were! The Pivot was inevitable if we planned to survive this.

The Pivot….

In the coming days, we would begin to launch a full IGTV/IG Live program jam-packed with multiple daily live classes filled with our normal Crossfit + HIIT Bootcamp programming as well as weekly Yoga and Mobility. We realized that we could reach people at home, not just our members but people from all over the world. Our coaching team rose to the occasion and came together to lead classes online.

This “online thing” was working. We had new followers and exposure and started to say, what other content could we offer? How could we keep it going, growing and branch out to other areas that matter to the fitness community. People were home, how could DTSC enrich their at quarantine experience?

We began to offer healthy cooking demos, IG Live Q&A’s with industry experts, and collaboration workouts with vendors and partners; suddenly in a time of isolation we felt more connected than ever to other people! We had become a brick and mortar gym who had found itself delivering a complete schedule full of content.

Outside Our Four Walls…

Somewhere through the many days of burpees in my living room, and jumping lunges on my balcony, it hit me. I realized the closure that once had our team in a panic, had turned out to have a silver lining after all. We were thriving in this online environment although it wasn’t anything we ever thought about or even knew would be to do. We learned how to coach to remote athletes of every level, we learned about how to be better trainers, deliver cues, and “coach” people who weren’t physically next to us.

In the online world, we had the chance to workout with friends who had moved out of Miami, “workout” next to our family in other countries, deliver content that could be done anywhere with little to no equipment, and so much more. We had broken beyond our four walls and exposed Downtown Strength and Conditioning to an entire global fitness community online! We were excited; I was excited!

Opportunity, Potential New Clients and Exposure, Cool Right? So Now What?

After the first few weeks of delivering and perfecting our online platform, we were in a rhythm. We saw members and “strangers” alike taking a class. We had people tuning in for workouts and additional content. This was great, but as the days became weeks and soon months we had to continue to evolve to ensure we would have a gym to come back to when the time came. The efforts to keep our members engaged wasn’t over, in fact, it had just begun.

Like many facilities, we had lent out equipment from our physical space to ensure our membership base had some help to train at home. We began to offer additional services complimentary as a value add, our in house nutrition coach offered nutrition counseling; which was especially valuable during this time at home.

We began to offer custom programming and remote 1-1 coaching with our trainers. Each of our trainers became responsible for a subgroup of members to give them weekly challenges, check-ins, and hold each other accountable. Each week I sent a weekly email update to our members filled with thoughts, updates, content, schedule, highlights, and more. I looked around and realized our members and team were more engaged than ever, another silver lining; we were getting in shape and eating better during quarantine!

The “Community”…

Community is a relative term in the world of fitness. We make our “community." This pandemic taught us a lot, including that our community is bigger than our gyms, or style of training. Here in Miami with so many amazing gyms, training methodologies and programming we tend to keep to ourselves as it relates to our “type” of gym, training style and company we keep. That was all different now.

The pandemic unified us. Suddenly gyms who were “competitors” aligned, people who never tried Yoga took an online class, coaches, training and gym owners who had never spoken became fast friends. Personally I used this as an opportunity to be a mentor and a mentee alike. My gym owner peers and trainers taught me to be a better owner and trainer and vice versa. Another silver lining emerged, Unity among our diverse fitness community both near and far was apparent.

As many of us as owners and coaches begin to prepare our studios and gyms for a day when we can all train “together” again, I am reminded that we were never really apart. We emerge from this pandemic and mandated closure with new knowledge, new approaches to our training and programming, and how we connect with one another. Through adversity there is growth, and many silver linings to even the most difficult of circumstances; we just have to look for it. On that note, we will meet you at the Bar(bell) soon!

Jessica is the owner of Downtown Strength & Conditioning in Miami where she coaches. Jessica originally hails from New York City where she spent the majority of her life before moving to South Florida. She has a background in training others, leading group fitness classes and currently practices both CrossFit and Weightlifting since the early 2000’s. Jessica has been playing team sports and participated in various athletics throughout her life.

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